Palo Alto superintendent to host elementary-math webinar

District leadership, teachers will take questions live

Palo Alto Unified Superintendent Max McGee will be hosting a live, online webinar this Wednesday evening to discuss a proposal to bring new mathematics curriculum to the school district's elementary schools.

McGee -- along with Chief Academic Officer of Elementary Education Barbara Harris, Nixon Elementary School Principal Mary Pat O'Connell, several parents and elementary math teachers -- will give a brief presentation and then take questions and comments live from viewers. Questions can be submitted anonymously or with a name.

The district launched during the 2015-16 school year an "exploratory" process for looking at new curricula to replace Everyday Math, which the board adopted in 2009. Teachers throughout the district's 12 elementary schools tested out different curricula in their classrooms in advance of a full pilot, which was set to begin with this school year. Several months into this process, six parents were selected from more than 30 applicants to serve on a new Elementary Math Exploration Committee, along with 50 elementary teachers and specialists.

The school board, however, opted in June to slow down this process, voicing concerns that parents hadn't been involved early enough.

The committee will convene for its kickoff meeting next Monday, Aug. 29, 3:30-5 p.m. at the district office. It will continue to meet through March, and is expected to make a final recommendation to the board in the spring.

McGee started hosting webinars last year, beginning with one last December recapping on the year and looking forward to 2016. He also hosted one focused on full-day kindergarten and live streamed an in-person town hall on enrollment management.

He told the Weekly that he intends to host a webinar once a month this year on an "important topic."

Wednesday's webinar will run 7-8:30 p.m. For more information and to participate, go to


Follow the Palo Alto Weekly/Palo Alto Online on Twitter @PaloAltoWeekly and Facebook for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

What is community worth to you?
Support local journalism.


6 people like this
Posted by Notice
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Aug 22, 2016 at 2:22 pm

Notice is a registered user.

Wow a whole two day's notice.

10 people like this
Posted by Eric
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 22, 2016 at 8:08 pm

Wait a minute, I thought "Everyday Math" was foisted on students by PAUSD because it is better than sliced bread! No doubt it cost the district a small fortune to adopt. This "new" math must be like like that sliced bread, but toasted with your favorite jam, and I assume it cost more than everyday math, because it's that much better. Since the results of testing in the classroom are not divulged, I'm going to guess that what ever the "new" math is, it did not fair any better than the "everyday math", and most likely no better than old math, which is how I explain math to my kids.

Is this for real, as in having some real tangible benefit in the classroom, or a pointless exercise orchestrated remotely from Churchill Ave?

2 people like this
Posted by NoMoPa
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 22, 2016 at 9:33 pm

@Notice - PAUSD sent an email out in the 18th with the webinar info.

@Eric - Common core exposed what most people already knew, Everyday Math is a joke, and didn't meet the state standards. Now the question is whether we get back on track, or let the mathphobic crowd choose another dumbed down curriculum.

3 people like this
Posted by Bob
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 22, 2016 at 9:36 pm

The adoption of Everyday Math was quite controversial when it was proposed and introduce several years ago. Many teachers stood before the school board and claimed that this math program would aid students on the bottom of the achievement spectrum. At the time, they provided no evidence that that claim was true.

So, what data can the PAUSD offer the community about its decision to adopt this program? And what reasons will the PAUSD be offering the community about its motivation to adopt some other approach?

Given how important math is to the community, it will be interesting to see if just how the District will go about presenting its ideas about change.

7 people like this
Posted by A Parent
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 22, 2016 at 9:43 pm

@Bob, you are not going to be thrilled with the answer. The district/adoption committee is making no reference to what worked or didn't work with the EDM. They are just going out and looking at new books, and picking what seems interesting. What's worse, of the 3 books they have recommended to pilot, 2 are not Common Core aligned, which means that they can't legally be adopted (per state law and our own regulations). But nobody seems too worried about it, they just do what feels right, and lash out when people complain about it.

Note that Jennifer Dibrienza the school board candidate is part of it. She is both on the adoption committee AND a contributing author of one of the proposed books (that is not Common Core aligned). If it seems shocking - well, it is.

2 people like this
Posted by Stop it
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 22, 2016 at 9:46 pm

Max and others
I am not impressed. Please do let me know your parent engagement rates

10 people like this
Posted by Dan
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 22, 2016 at 10:09 pm

Fortunately my child is out of the EDM mistake now. I remember going to the parent meeting about EDM and complaining that it was not a real math curriculum, dumbed down the learning of basic arithmetic concepts and diluted the learning with lots of concepts that were unnecessary at best, confusing at worst. Worst part was the emphasis on written long form words/sentences instead of the simple language of mathematics. My impression at the time is that the school officials were in the room because they had to be there, but no amount of parent feedback would have changed the already completed decision. I decided I'd best put my graduate degree to work and teach the material myself. Not sure what has changed in the past few years that would make parent feedback more successful this time around. On the plus side when my son needs to multiply two numbers he can spend an hour and try to remember that lattice multiplication proceedure , or maybe just use the standard algorithm and get the answer in a few seconds.

3 people like this
Posted by outsider
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 23, 2016 at 11:21 am

The district has to look at Art of Problem solving. It is the very best curriculum and a great fit for this district. Kids should be allowed to opt out of common core to take these classes. If every 6th grader took counting and probability and number theory it would alleviate all the headaches of laning and the kids would be awesome at programming, math and logic skills. After these classes, algebra would be simple for all of them. Just my opinion.

2 people like this
Posted by How to improve outreach on this.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 23, 2016 at 12:09 pm

How to improve outreach on this. is a registered user.

It's a webinar. I suggest that it be posted on the district web site so parents may view it when they have time in their schedule to do so. That would be a very helpful way to engage families in this important dialogue.

Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 23, 2016 at 2:05 pm

Two issues here.

First issue, math curriculum. Big topic, lots of discussion necessary.

Second issue, webinar. Now I like that idea. Much better than these long meetings that go on ad infinitum.

1 person likes this
Posted by no fan of EDM
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 23, 2016 at 4:03 pm

My kids went through EDM starting in 1st grade. It was a BIG mistake. The Number strand was not enough for my children to come away with a strong Number concept. Thus for 5 years I have struggled teaching them, supplementing homework with easier Old math exercises,, tutors and trying to attain some competency with Basic Math. 5 years ago parents were not included in the process, and the Math Resource Teachers pushed Everyday Math to supposedly help all levels of children. Well, the results must be in. What are they? Did EDM support all levels of children? I am glad the District is doing a Webinar, hopefully they will engage parents and choose a Better math curricula for elementary kids.

Like this comment
Posted by Eric
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 23, 2016 at 7:04 pm

During his time at leading PAUSD, has Max ever left the Churchill Bubble and actually spent time in classrooms to see what is, and isn't working?

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

All your news. All in one place. Every day.

Su Hong Palo Alto's last day of business will be Sept. 29
By Elena Kadvany | 17 comments | 5,473 views

Troubling safety issues in our fair city
By Diana Diamond | 16 comments | 1,641 views

Premarital, Women Over 50 Do Get Married
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 1,562 views

Natural Wines?
By Laura Stec | 1 comment | 1,443 views

Electric Buses: A case study
By Sherry Listgarten | 2 comments | 1,357 views


Register now!

On Friday, October 11, join us at the Palo Alto Baylands for a 5K walk, 5K run, 10K run or half marathon! All proceeds benefit local nonprofits serving children and families.

More Info